Needless to say, it always ends poorly. If you never remove ’em, contact lenses dry up and get itchy and eventually fall out on their own. After six or so months of dating someone, I’ll wake up one morning and realize that I haven’t spent a single day alone in my head for who knows how long, and I’ll look at the guy and my googly eyes will malfunction, or maybe they slipped off while I slept. Then I become quiet, depressed, irritable—but I’ll be too scared of the idea of being alone to end it, so I’ll stay, and pretend. Poor boys. I feel bad for all the souls I’ve swallowed. I think that I wear males out. Finally, things fall apart. We break up. And then the panic sets in. Panic: the feeling of being so excruciatingly terrified of being alone in this world and not knowing how I am supposed to live—how I am supposed to get by, day by day, and stand on my own two feet and walk through this world and live a life—on my own? It’s the feeling of having cried and cried and cried and cried until there are no more tears inside to cry and then I feel shaky and worn out and it hurts to move and my body feels all ticklish and shaky and I move through the world in a daze and I don’t know how people do this, how do they live? How do they walk and smile and nod and talk and just survive and be a person? HOW DO YOU DO THAT? That is what it feels like. It feels too hard. And so I set my eyes on another dude and put those googly eyes back on and lose myself by focusing all my energy on loving him. That way I can avoid for another little-under-a-year having to learn how to be a person on my own. And then the cycle begins again…
Things have changed a lot in the year since I wrote that first Rookie essay. One of the biggest changes is that believe it or not, I don’t want a boyfriend anymore. I would actually rather be alone. Yes, the big petrifying lonely feeling still sweeps over me more often than I’d like, but I’m all right with that now, and I want to learn how to navigate this world on my own.
I don’t know when or how precisely this shift happened, but I think that a lot of it has to do with having published that article in the first place (obeying the hippie ethoses of DO WHAT YOU WANT TO DO and CHILL THE FUCK OUT also helped—this all happened when I was dating the hippie). For what felt like the first time, I did what I wanted to do—to write about what I felt and thought—and I put myself out there, out in the world, and it was all right. I didn’t collapse. I got positive feedback. And that gave me the confidence to keep writing, which I love doing and which makes me feel like the world is actually a fun place to be in. And when I am writing, or somewhere in the process of thinking about writing, I like to be alone in my head, so that the world can bubble up in prose.
So then I started wanting to hang out by myself, and wanting to go for walks by myself, and I found out that it was actually great being alone, walking on my own two feet. I stopped wanting to give all my energy/time/love to one person; I stopped wanting to spill out all my emotions and words onto one dude. I wanted to save that energy, those words, for that quality time spent between me and my laptop.
In The Second Sex, de Beauvoir says that one reason many of us act like the Woman in Love is that we’re taught to be objects—we’re here to be gazed upon, to be taken care of, to help other people achieve their goals in life while we are ashamed to admit to our own, and after a while we forget about them anyway. Boys, meanwhile, are taught that their value comes from acting, doing things, making things, shaping the world. The Second Sex was written in 1949, and things are not quite so bad anymore, and to tell you the truth, it never made sense to me that I was so scared of being an actor-upon-the-world that I chose instead to play a helpless, obedient ’50s-style wife. It still doesn’t make sense. But no matter. The point is that I was that scared, and I did choose to act that way. I lacked confidence in myself. I lived fearfully.
And then I proved de Beauvoir correct in another way: I escaped the Woman in Love problem by doing something, instead of just existing near someone else who was doing things. I had always wished I had more self-confidence and less fear, but you don’t get those things just by wishing—at least I don’t. I had made vows to stay single, but I’d always break them within a couple of weeks. But once I started writing—doing what I wanted, on my own, and in my own voice—I magically gained that elusive confidence without even asking for it. And without any effort on my part, my seemingly perpetual Woman in Love cycle broke.
Because I’m realizing something about myself these days. I’m kind of cool. I like myself. I’m ambitious. A good egg. A fun date. Frankly, the only person I’m interested in spending that much time with these days is myself.
You know, when I pitched this article, I said that I’d write about how I want to be an Independent Lady for the first time in my life and how that feels great but I also feel guilty about it, like I’m worried that if I lose touch with the Woman in Love side of me I’ll become loveless and unfeeling and morph into another gruesome female stereotype: the cold bitch in a power suit. After that incident at the Guggenheim, I tried to make up with N. because I felt guilty/nervous about chucking those googly eyes. But I couldn’t force them back on, and neither did I want to. Plus, frankly, I think cold bitches in power suits are hot. So you know what? I don’t feel guilty. Eh, I feel. Suck it. Maybe someday, when I’ve had enough time with myself, I’ll be ready to share my love with another person, in a chiller, more mature manner than before. But for now, I feel good. I feel great. I feel victorious. ♦